Eusébio da Silva Ferreira wasn't just a Portuguese football player; he was a sports symbol during a nearly 25-year-long career. He had many names on the field: Black panther, Black pearl or just King - but an unmistakable style.
Born and deceased in January (1942-2014), this is undoubtedly Eusébio's month. Ballon d'Or in 1965, two Golden Boots and best Player in 1966's World Cup, he's much more than a simple athlete, he is a national symbol. He represented Portugal at the highest level for almost 20 years and carried the flag wherever he played with the red jersey.
He grew to be such a prodigy that when Eusébio came to Portugal from his home country, Mozambique, he had to pull up a spy move and flew under the name Ruth, so the big clubs that were trying to sign him didn't know he was coming.
Not just in Portugal but across the globe, football is a massive phenomenon; it brings people together. From different ages, backgrounds, faiths, races, and sexual orientations. And that's what Eusébio did for an entire country.
That's the thing about sports. It's a language that everybody understands: wether a great victory or a significant loss. Even if you don't care about football at all, there's a moment every four years where all your country dresses the same, prays before every game and yells their lungs out hoping for a win.
Hope is a powerful bound. Eusébio, in the 1966's World Cup, turned a 0-3 to a 5-3 for Portugal. At the top of his game, he took SL Benfica to two European Cup finals. People gathered around the TV or went to the stadium just because the King was playing. He made them feel invincible.
At a certain point in time, the mear conception of Portugal as a nation was a synonym of Eusébio himself. Meaning that the black Panther became so great of a symbol that if you were Portuguese, people around the world would know your country because of Eusébio's fantastic record. Until today, if you mention Portugal in a conversation abroad, people will directly relate to Ronaldo or Eusébio.
Eusébio is, without a doubt, a Portuguese banner around the world and is for sure an example of Mandela's belief that sports have the power to change the world.